Rationalizing Play: A Critical Theory or Digital Gaming
Sara M. Crimes and Andrew Feenberg
This article creates a new framework for the study of games as platforms of social rationalization, with the application of Feenberg’s critical theory of technology and also applying concepts of instrumentalization and social rationality to construct “Ludification Theory”. This theory will provide criteria for evaluating games by both rational practice, as well as the social, cultural, and political conditions. They propose a theory of the rationalization of play that focuses of the key components of socially rationalized games, specifically Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs). MMOGs are the ideal case study for exploring the relationship between games and social rationality because they include all three principles in social rationality which are exchange of equivalents (exchange of moves between players who are equalized at the outset), classification and application of rules, and optimization of effort and calculation of results (strict rules and strategies set by the game for principle two and three). Overall MMOGs are constituted by collaborative play and experience by investing time, creating content, producing cultures, and communities, and sharing activities. Within the case study of MMOGs, specifically World of Warcraft (WoW), the five properties of ludification theory used to evaluate the game are Reflexivity, Boundedness, Rule-governedness, Precision, and Playfulness. As a end result this article endorsees the use of ludification theory as the basis for critical studies of rationalized play forms similar to WoW. This study recognizes that any theory used must take into account the changing nature and function of games within contemporary capitalist societies. By using ludification theory the case study is able to explain how games, arising out of undifferentiated communicative practices, gradually evolving into a increasingly rationalized form of activity, and transform into systems of social rationality. I believe this study needed to look into other MMOGs to include in their study because not all MMOGs have the same gaming properties; cause them to have different game play. Overall MMOGs are built on the property of co-operative game play, which is a social element, so it is not surprising of the case studies results to show that ludification theory shows social rationality, but maybe a good basis for explaining positive properties of MMOGs.